Amy’s eyes filled with tears, and she ran up stairs to her own room. She had no heart to read the fairy book, or to make clothes for her doll, or to play with the kitten, or even to eat the rest of her chocolate drops.
“I shall never be able to bear another day of this,” she said to herself; “I thought it would be so delightful to have no duties, but somehow my play does not seem half so good as it did before.”
The next day brought no real pleasure and comfort. Listlessly Amy wandered about, having no zest for any of her former amusements, and feeling thoroughly unhappy. She began to long for the very duties which had seemed so irksome to her; she could hardly keep from tears when she saw others busy over lessons, or her mother doing work which had formerly been hers.
At last her misery ended in a fit of crying, and shutting herself up in her own room, she gave way to it. Sob followed sob so quickly that she did not hear her door open, until her mother’s arms were round her, and her hot, aching head was pillowed on her mother’s shoulder. Not a word passed between them for a few minutes; then Amy sobbed out, “O mother! mother! the copy was quite right, ‘Duty first, and pleasure afterward;’ for without duty there is no pleasure at all.”
[Illustration: “Her mother’s arms were around her.”]
[Illustration: “Do tell us a story.”]
* * * * *
“Oh, cousin Will, do tell us a story! There’s just time before the school-bell rings.” And Harry, Kate, Bob, and little Peace crowded about their older cousin until he declared himself ready to do anything they wished.
“Very well,” said Cousin Will. “I will tell you about some dangerous doors I have seen.”
“Oh, that’s good!” exclaimed Bob. “Were they all iron and heavy bars? And if one passed in, did they shut and keep them there forever?”
“No; the doors I mean are pink or scarlet, and when they open you can see a row of little servants standing all in white, and behind them is a little lady dressed in crimson.”
“What? That’s splendid!” cried Kate. “I should like to go in myself.”
“Ah! it is what comes out of these doors that makes them so dangerous. They need a strong guard on each side, or else there is great trouble.”
“Why, what comes out?” said little Peace, with wondering eyes.
“When the guards are away,” said Cousin Will, “I have known some things to come out sharper than arrows, and they make terrible wounds. Quite lately I saw two pretty little doors, and one opened and the little lady began to talk like this: ’What a stuck-up thing Lucy Waters is! And did you see that horrid dress made out of her sister’s old one?’ ‘Oh, yes,’ said the other little crimson lady from the other door, ’and what a turned-up nose she has!’ Then poor Lucy, who was around the corner, ran home and cried all evening.”